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Lawsuits & Litigation

Volkswagen Agrees to Settle Age Discrimination Suit for $995K

— February 7, 2020

Earlier this week, Volkswagen agreed to settle a lawsuit filed by a group of older employees over allegations of age discrimination.

Earlier this week, Volkswagen agreed to settle an age discrimination lawsuit for $995,000. The suit was filed by Volkswagen employees over allegations that a Chatanooga Volkswagen plant took part in age discrimination in its hiring and promotion procedures. 

Statue of Lady Justice; image by Joel & Jasmin Førestbird, via
Statue of Lady Justice; image by Joel & Jasmin Førestbird, via

The class-action complaint was originally filed back in June 2018 by Sanford Heisler Sharp, the firm that represented a group of employees over the age of 50. According to the firm, the suit was filed in response to “company-wide age discrimination against employees 50 years and older.” The recent settlement was proposed despite Volkswagen denying and contesting the allegations.

What happened, exactly? How did the company discriminate against its older employees? For starters, the suit claimed that a news release in June 2017 announced that Volkswagen would begin “management changes to reduce the size and age of its staff by implementing a partial early retirement scheme for employees born between 1955 and 1960.”

The changes sparked frustration and anger among many of the older workers, including Jonathan Manlove. At the time of the proposed changes, Manlove was 60-years-old. Shortly after the news release was issued, he was told by human resources that he was going to be “demoted from assistant manage to supervisor.” From there, he was “transferred on loan to a position in a different department” and was told that he “had one year to find a new assistant manager position within the company or his salary would be reduced and his demotion and ‘on loan’ status would become permanent.” However, the suit alleges he was “prevented from applying for any promotions, despite his manager recommending him for a promotion after a performance evaluation.” 

Manlove was the one leading the charge to have the suit filed on behalf of himself and other older Volkswagen employees. When describing the discrimination, the suit stated:

“One of the primary practices challenged in this litigation has been Volkswagen’s allegedly subjective method of filling open positions, which allegedly enabled management to hand-select preferred younger candidates and bypass older workers. This settlement provides concrete measures to ensure that settlement class members are placed on an equal playing field.”

As part of the recent proposed settlement, Volkswagen must implement “comprehensive anti-discrimination training and education, safeguards against future discrimination, and management training program reforms.” Additionally, the company must have policies in place to make it easy for employees to report instances of discrimination, including policies that allow employees to bypass their direct supervisor. On top of that, Volkswagen must now ensure that all “eligible employees have the opportunity to apply and be evaluated for participation in management training programs on an equal basis regardless of age.

When commenting on the settlement agreement, VW Chattanooga spokeswoman Amanda Plecas said:

“Volkswagen made no admission of any wrongdoing by entering into the settlement, and the settlement expressly provides that it is neither an admission of, nor evidence of, any liability or wrongdoing. If approved by the court, the settlement will provide for a complete resolution of the lawsuit.”


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